Look out, Phoenix...

An open letter from LOOKOUT's executive editor to Phoenix's queer community

You’ve been seen. But have you been heard?

I grew up in Mesa, Arizona. At the time, Chandler Fashion Mall’s opening was the “big deal.” Arizona Mills still had a Gameworks. Tempe Town Lake had finished being filled.

Though some people look back on those years fondly — as a quieter time in Phoenix — I look back on it with anger. The East Valley was not an accepting place for people like me, a young teenager who was Middle Eastern, closeted, and railed hard against religion.

Being gay, though, was the hardest part of my identity.

It was so obvious to everyone around me I was a gay man, but I was terrified to come to terms with it myself. My friends were “pro-gay,” but said I would be going against God. My mother said she would “accept” me if I was, but that she would never go to my wedding and said I was going to get AIDS. My brother “didn’t care,” but said it was a product of conditioning. I found comfort only among my sister, and other openly gay friends.

Like many who leave their hometowns before turning 20, I vowed to never return. But pandemic made a fool of many of us, and I found myself back in the Valley of the Sun.

Phoenix, arguably, is not the same as when I left in 2007. There is a bustling downtown scene. Suburbs like Gilbert and Chandler have become hubs for food and drink destinations. Tempe’s skyline rivals even other cities in the Southwest.

But with that growth, it’s been shocking — and disappointing — to return to a place that has essentially been unchanged, culturally. Phoenix’s gay bars are less community-focused, the number of spaces for gay youth have remained static, the politics and rhetoric around queer Arizonans has remained stuck in the past, and places to learn about community events and queer news is gone.

And even though there has been significant progress in Phoenix in regards to our community being recognized by the public, it’s not enough to only be seen. It’s time to also be heard.

That’s why we started LOOKOUT. We believe that a better informed community is a closer and more energized community.

LOOKOUT is a mission-driven newsletter and quarterly magazine that will keep queer issues top-of-mind and above the fold. Too often the community is treated as an “Arts and Entertainment” beat, but the reality is that we are more than just drag shows and Pride parades.

We have an entire economic ecosystem. We are effected by over-policing and under-policing. We are leaders in crafting public health policy. We have entire sports teams competing on a national stage. We are targets of legislators who have more power than the least of us. And we also are targets for people who wish to hurt us.

For those who can support us, we are expecting a launch in January of 2023, with monthly and annual subscribers receiving weekly news delivered directly to your inbox. Subscribers will also get access to our online news portal, as well as an opportunity to comment on stories. Subscribers also will receive early access to RSVP for exclusive LOOKOUT events we plan to start having in the Spring, in anticipation of our quarterly magazine that will launch in Summer of 2023.

LOOKOUT Magazine will be a publication that Phoenicians of all colors and stripes will be proud to display on their coffee tables. It will include deep features on solutions within our community, photo essays of issues and places that are dear to us, and exclusive investigations that stand up to even legacy publishers.

Your subscription to LOOKOUT will help fuel this vision for a better informed, more engaged, and activated community. And to make sure that we are offering you the best quality, and to prove to you that we have what it takes, we are offering a launch special of 60% off an annual subscription — $27.50 a year.

I hope that you’ll enjoy and participate in this exciting journey, and I look forward to making Phoenix not just a destination for snowbirds, but also open and inclusive companies, people, and everything queer.

-Joseph Darius Jaafari
Executive Editor, LOOKOUT

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LOOKOUT Publications is a federally recognized nonprofit news outlet. EIN Number:92-3129757